A first birth for a mum in Cork University Maternity Hospital

Given that my little man is now eight months I think it’s about time I finally get his birth story down on paper!  I had a fantastically easy pregnancy and pretty much sailed through the nine months.  I did the Gentlebirth home study programme and listened to the tracks daily, did pregnancy yoga every week and had regular acupuncture.  I also did lots of research into birth in Ireland, interventions, hospital protocols, natural pain relief and so on.  The Gentlebirth Facebook group was my go-to for any questions.  I drank raspberry leaf tea from 34 weeks, used evening primrose oil from 38 weeks and bounced on my birthing ball for hours.  So by the time my due date arrived I was fully prepared and ready to go!

My only wobble came at my 36 week hospital appointment when the midwife checking my fundal height told me I was measuring ahead of my dates.  I was sent for an ultrasound and to see the doctor and was told that I was measuring 38 weeks instead of 36.  And with that I was transferred out of the midwives clinic and back to the consultant’s.  I also had to have a GTT which luckily came back negative.  The doctor then advised me that as the baby was measuring large that he would prefer for me not to go past term and to be induced at 40 weeks.  To which I replied, remembering my Gentlebirth, that I wouldn’t discuss induction until 40 weeks at the earliest.  It came up again at my 38 week appointment and I responded exactly the same.  The measurements were indicating that Oscar would be over 9lb and this seemed to be a concern for the doctor, with mention of shoulder dystocia and instrumental delivery.  But as I was 9lb at birth and Steve almost the same it really didn’t concern me.  And as Tracy says, “My baby is the perfect size for my body”!

Oscar was due on 11th December and it came and went almost without incident.  I did have a small show in the evening which made me think things might be warming up. I woke at 4am on the 12th with serious backache and spent a couple of hours tossing and turning before admitting defeat and getting up at 6am.  Steve got up with me and we decided to take the dogs for a walk, or my case, a waddle.  So we wrapped up and off we went.  I had a hospital appointment that morning so we headed off to that after breakfast.  When the doctor examined me he asked if I would like a sweep which I agreed to…more fool me.  I can safely say that I would not do that again, especially as he told me that he thought I’d go in the next day or two anyway.  But lesson learned.

After that we went home and back to bed for a few hours, until I decided that it was imperative that we went to the supermarket to stock up.  I don’t know why I thought this was necessary given that I’d already stockpiled enough food to last the winter!  The whole time I was walking around I had to keep stopping to breathe through little surges but in my naivety it never occurred to me that I might actually be in real labour – I kept telling Steve it was just warm ups.  So we went home, lit the fire and put on a movie.

I was sitting on my ball and still having small surges but thinking nothing of it until I stood up at around 7.30pm and felt a gush.  Still in denial though, I told Steve I thought I’d wet myself!  And after that it all kicked off.  Surges starting coming more frequently and getting stronger.  Steve had an app on the iPhone to record them so while he was doing that I was rocking on the ball, using my TENS and hopping in and out of the shower.  By 9.30pm the surges were coming every five minutes so I rang the hospital at that point and they told me to come in.  When we arrived in CUMH we discovered I’d picked a manic night to go into labour.  The waiting room was bursting and I ended up sitting there, leaking waters all over the place, until 1.30am.  I couldn’t be moved to a ward until I’d had a trace and because it was so busy, I ended up waiting hours for it.  Again, if I could do it over I would be saying no thanks to that.  By this stage the surges had slowed down but they were all coming through my back and the TENS machine was doing nothing for me.  I asked for pethidine but it might as well have been water because it did nothing for me.

Once the trace was done I was moved to a ward.  There were three other women trying to sleep in it so I spent most of the time in the toilet – for some reason sitting on the toilet seat was the only way I was comfortable.  I also had a birthing ball so I rocked and rolled on that in between.  At about 2.30am I sent Steve to the 24hr Tesco nearby to get himself something to eat and also to buy me some more underwear, as I’d soaked mine by then.  The poor man!  By 4.30am the pain in my back had me doubled over but when I was examined I was finally 4cm so I could go to delivery.

I asked to use the birthing pool but because my waters had released I wasn’t allowed to.  The pain in my back was unrelenting so I asked for an epidural, something that I really hadn’t wanted at all.  The anaesthetist was there within minutes and sited the epidural on the second attempt and within 5 minutes, I finally had relief.  And the anaesthetist told me why my back pain was so severe – I have a scar on my lower back from a previous disc surgery and she told me that it was probably the scar tissue in my back that was causing the pain to be centred there.  Anyway, once the epidural kicked in the next few hours passed very peacefully.  I chatted to Steve and the midwives and watched the sun come up outside my window.  By 7.30am I was fully dilated and the midwife told me she’d give me an hour for Oscar to descend.  She told me that once that happened I would have an hour to push him out so unfortunately I did very much have the sense of being on the clock.

At 8am the shift changed which threw me a bit but the new midwives were every bit as lovely as the first.  I went through my birth preference with them – delayed cord clamping, natural third stage etc and was told they were all fine.  And when 8.30am came, it was time to start pushing.

Because of the epidural I was on my back; it was only later I learned that I could have been propped up over the back of the bed.  But I didn’t know better at the time.  I wanted to let my body push Oscar out naturally but I couldn’t feel anything so I reluctantly allowed the midwives to coach me.  After about 20 minutes nothing was happening so the midwife advised me that she wanted to put me on syntocin as my surges were irregular and that would give me a better chance of getting him out within the hour.  So I agreed and kept going.

The midwife told me she could see him – her exact words were “Your baby has fair hair” – and I kept trying to push so I could see him for myself.  But although his head was visible I wasn’t making any progress (even with an extra 20 minutes added to the hour) so a doctor was called to perform a vacuum delivery.  The midwife was confident that as Oscar was so far down at that point that it would be an easy procedure.  The doctor arrived and discussed the process with me.  I told him I did not want an episiotomy unless absolutely necessary and that was agreed.  He got set up and we kept going.  I was focused on pushing so not aware of anything else but my husband told me later that when the doctor was pulling on the vacuum he was really straining.  This went on for a few minutes with no success so another doctor was called in.  And two ‘baby’ doctors also arrived in so I had quite a crowd gathered around.

The first doctor was still straining with the vacuum and I heard the second mention forceps as the next step.  When I heard that I pulled up every last bit of my energy and pushed and with that Oscar’s head was delivered at 10.13am.  One more push and he was out.  Because it was a vacuum delivery they cut the cord immediately and the doctors checked him over before handing him to me.  He went straight to my chest and I forgot everything else in the world.  My beautiful boy was finally here.

After a while I came back to myself and noticed that the doctor was still between my legs.  I asked Steve what he was doing and he told me that he was stitching me up – I didn’t even realise I’d had the episiotomy!  Then all the staff left us and we were alone with Oscar for the first time.  I have no idea how long we were alone – all we did was stare at him in awe.  When the midwives came back they checked us both over and we both had temperatures so were given antibiotics – mine by IV.  There were no beds available at the time so we were brought to another room in delivery and kept there for a few hours until we were brought to the postnatal ward.  I had a wonderful student midwife who stayed with us the whole time and helped me latch Oscar on over and over.  He had a scalp laceration from the vacuum but it didn’t bother him at all – he latched like a pro (despite a later-discovered lip tie) and then slept in my arms.  And to this day he still breastfeeds and sleeps like a dream.

Looking back, there is a lot that I would change.  I would have stayed home longer, refused the vaginal exams and admissions trace, and insisted on being upright for delivery.  But even though I didn’t have the minimal intervention birth that I had wanted, it was still a gentle birth.  I was so calm and confident throughout and so was Oscar – his heart rate never faltered.  And no matter how it happened, I can’t look back and regret anything – I accept the path my birthing took.

All birth stories and images featured in 42 weeks have been generously shared by members of the public in Ireland. If you would like to take part and share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch through the website http://www.42weeks.ie, through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/42weeks or follow us on Twitter at @42_weeks.

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